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Water, sanitation on agenda in Hanoi


Cambodia, Vietnam and Laos renew pledges to increase access to clean water and sanitation


Participants at a three-day conference on ways of improving water quality and sanitation in the region.

REGIONAL stakeholders met last week in Hanoi for a three-day conference focusing on ways of improving water quality and sanitation for 1.8 million poor living in Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam.

The April 20-22 conference, organised by the United Nations Centre for Human Settlements (UN-Habitat), saw more than 70 government and NGO representatives from the three countries reaffirm their commitment to the organisation's Mekong Region Water and Sanitation (MEK-WATSAN) initiative, launched in 2005.

"The initiative, with an estimated budget of US$41 million, aims to halve the proportion of people in Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam without access to quality water and sanitation services over 2005-2015," Andre Dzikus, chief of the Water and Sanitation Section at UN-Habitat, said at the conference.

At the end of the conference, government representatives from the three countries signed the "Hanoi Declaration", committing them to MEK-WATSAN goals.

Ten Cambodian participants, including two UN-Habitat staff and seven government officials, attended the conference, during which four priority towns - Kampong Cham, Svay Rieng, Pursat and Kampong Thom - were selected for improvements in water and sanitation infrastructure. A similar project was initiated in Kampot province in 2008.

Meng Saktheara, director general of the Ministry of Industry, Mines & Energy's General Department of Industry, said he "warmly welcomed" the MEK-WATSAN initiative, saying it would benefit many urban poor who still lack access to clean water and modern sanitation.  

"We have a plan to implement the first phase over three years at an estimated cost of about $1.8 million, which will improve water quality and sanitation for four priority secondary towns and expand the pipe network to about 50,000 people," he said.

Avi Sarkar, Regional Chief Technical Adviser of MEK-WATSAN, said that the objectives of the MEK-WATSAN initiative are to support participating governments in the greater Mekong Sub-region attain their water and sanitation-related Millennium Development Goals.

"It especially will expedite pro-poor water and sanitation investments, enhance institutional and human resource capacities at local and regional levels to sustain water and sanitation senses [and] reduce the adverse environment impacts of urbanisation on local river catchments."



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